Talent Evolution Blog by Margaret Graziano

Talent rEvolution Blog by Margaret Graziano


The third & fourth secret: Active listening & being curious.


Being present is something many working professionals struggle with.  The ability to multi-task often comes at the cost of truly listening. The problem is when that happens in an interview, and you’re not actively listening, you are downloading and only hearing what you want to hear or only listening to validate your assumptions.  The first level of listening in an interview causes you to miss major clues that very well could enlighten you on the candidate’s compatibility with the company and in the role.


Active listening allows you to come out of an interview with some new data points that you weren’t aware of before. During this interview, you allow yourself to challenge some of your own assumptions, and when that happens that’s a good indicator that you have been exposed to some new realities out there that you weren’t aware of.


Paying attention, listening, and curiosity at higher levels—specifically during the career aspiration portion of the interview—is a major factor for successful long-term hires. Active listening at this level allows you to see reality through the candidate’s perspective—through their pair of eyes.


Active listening allows you to ask open ended questions in an interview and come out of a conversation with a new perspective, not just new data points. That’s key when evaluating how long a candidate will stay with the company and if the company can deliver on what the candidate wants and needs in a role.

Overall listening to what the candidate says and does not say illuminates their qualifications, interest, and potential red flags. Listening to how the candidate words their answers, and watching their facial expressions and body language also gives you access to how they feel and the attitude they have about the work they do.


The fifth secret: Mindful conclusions.


Take the time to debrief and evaluate the match fit for the candidate in the role. Go through your role requirements, and the candidates’ abilities and skills, as well as who they are and what needs and desires they want for their career. Lastly, bring all of it together and evaluate it this match makes sense. If it does not make sense, be honest and transparent and tell the candidate. If it does make sense for the candidate, the role, and the company, tell the candidate and arrange for next steps.


Great interviews start with great interviewers, and the best in the business conduct the process with five distinct secrets. They prepare diligently, they ensure a structured setting with an interviewing guide, they listen actively and curiously, and form mindful conclusions about a candidate to foster future success.


The next time you find a new candidate on your interview calendar, utilize these secrets to achieve more effective hires and watch our video below for extra tips on maximizing your interviewing effectiveness.



With the generational and workforce demographic challenges adversely impacting everybody’s ability to attract, hire, engage, develop and retain people; everyone needs a leg up on ensuring that they are putting their best foot forward in the employee selection process. Gallup reports that, on average, 30% of all hires feel mismatched to their role, and almost 70% of all working people feel somewhat disengaged either in their role or in their organization. The reality about these statistics is that is all begins with the hire.


There are five secrets to being a great interviewer.  Learning about and mastering these keys empower you to maximize your effectiveness in hiring the right people, for the right roles, for the right reasons.


The first secret: Consciously prepare yourself.


By following Stephen Covey’s advice and beginning with the end in mind you provide the most value to your company and candidates. There are three types of preparation: role needs preparation, interviewing preparation, and self-preparation. Make sure you know and understand specifically what you want to come away with before you start the interview.  Ultimately, you are interviewing to make a hiring recommendation, and it is your responsibility to fully understand the role you are hiring for as well as thoroughly understand the person you are considering matching to it.


Role. Ground yourself thoroughly in the needs of the role. Find out why it exists, its impact to the overall business strategy, as well as its success indicators.  Understand the role’s core functions and what it will take in terms of people, leadership, and decision-making competencies.  Be clear about the required technical skills, and the mandatory must haves (in that order).


Interview. During the interview, it is your job to determine the answer to these very important questions. Can the candidate really do the job? How long will the candidate be happy and productive? How will the candidate impact others?


Self. Bring your best self to the interview. The interview is not something you do to a candidate, is it something you go through together.  Prepare yourself for interviewing with a balanced perspective. Consider the perspective of the role, the candidate, and the company during the interview.  Take the time to review the candidate’s resume and the role requirements before you step in to the interview. Check in with yourself and make sure you are distraction free and that you are willing and able to be fully present during the interview. This means to turn off your phone and email, clear your desk and be ready.


The second secret:  Bring structure.


Avoid the pitfall of interviewing on autopilot. Get yourself mentally prepped to be in an interview. With how busy a day around the office can be, it’s not unheard of to conduct interviews on the run or in a less than optimal setting. It’s important to use an agenda and an interviewing guide to get the most out of the interview.


Use a formal work history interviewing guide that gives you all the questions that you need answered. Be specific about the time and the duration of the interview.  It is important that you plan time blocks for each section of the interview.  A specific time block should be set for the beginning of the interview, where you gather insights and an overview of the candidate, their interests and why they think it is a fit.  Block another time limit for the actual deep dive of the work history, and another for discovering the candidate’s goals and aspirations.

If you’d like to learn more on how to be an effective interviewer, watch my video below where I go into deeper detail on the secrets that will propel your interviewing techniques.




Every person, at every level in an organization needs some level of training and development. The rate of innovation is accelerating at a mind-numbing pace, and no matter what role a person holds, the skills of today will become insufficient for the work of tomorrow. Whether it is in the area of people readiness, a deeper technical expertise, management training or an ability to take feedback as constructive guidance; the development of the workforce must be a core tenant to any winning workforce strategy.

The greatest gift a leader can give their people is the gift of developing them professionally.




A key component to fostering alignment with employees and creating buy in for the business vision, mission and values is to find a way to connect the bigger picture into each and every employee’s heart and head. When the leader has an emotional commitment to the business mission and understands how his vision satisfies his peoples’ needs, that leader has direct access to igniting engagement within them. Without followers, you can’t be a leader—followers will only voluntarily engage in something they think satisfies their needs as well as your goals.


When people can connect their personal mission and purpose with the greater good of the company they naturally feel compelled to do better and give more of themselves at work.


Rewards and consequences


In taking action and moving toward completion of your mission and vision, there will inevitably be surprises and unexpected results. A person skilled in leading will continually assess the plan for achieving the stated goals and make course corrections along the way. Leading requires a focus on the milestones along the way, as well as an eye on the long-term mission.

While accountability is not black and white; it is a fundamental building block of any highly effective organization. Great leaders inform their people of what their role is expected to accomplish and how their role and work connects to the bigger company mission and plan. People do best when they have a full picture of the intended outcomes and the systemic impacts of their contribution.

In order to create a culture that drives your business initiatives forward and fulfills the intention of your mission, you’ll need to invest time and energy towards developing yourself as a leader of that culture. How well you communicate your intentions and how often, will be critical to the success of your cultural alignment initiative. To be the M.O.R.T.A.R. that holds your workforce together, you must make developing yourself a top priority.

If you’d like to learn more on how to be more successful in your hiring, view this short video below and tell us how you plan on transforming your workforce in the comments below!


The number one driver of employee engagement and workplace performance is culture, so why do so many companies fail at establishing one that wins?

When your workplace culture is working, it is something that the senior leadership propagates and leverages as a competitive advantage. However, when your company culture is not functioning properly—or not working at all—it becomes a deterrent to productivity, innovation and employee morale.

Being that the culture you construct at work is one of the most pivotal cogs driving the success of your business, why, then, do so many companies fail at building one that wins? It’s because, frankly, many business owners, managers and CEOs are unaware as to how big of an impact culture really makes. So how do you build a culture that wins? It begins with you, as a leader—you must become the M.O.R.T.A.R. that holds it all together.



Leading begins with clearly envisioning the overall mission to accomplish and then communicating that vision and purpose in a way that moves, touches and inspires followers to align with and support that vision.

The mark of a great leader is someone who shapes his or her work culture around a compelling and stimulating mission. A leader, who creates a compelling vision, and articulates that vision in a way that moves people into alignment and action, is a leader that gets high quality, mission-fulfilling work done, through others.

There are two keys to creating a culture of people who are intrinsically motivated and operate in service of delivering on the purpose of the enterprise. The first is the leader’s capability and commitment to communicating the vision his people in a way that generates enthusiasm, inspiration and alignment.  The second is the leader’s ability to link each individual in the organization to the purpose of their specific role, and that role purpose to the overall purpose of the organization.  When this happens, people accomplish great feats, and enjoy themselves while they are doing it.


On Boarding

When a new hire comes on board, the most powerful way to connect them to the bigger purpose and vision is to make it a priority for the business leader to share the purpose of the business and the reason it exists as well as the core operating values that each and every employee is expected to demonstrate in their day to day implementation of their role.  When a new hire begins with the end in the mind and formulates an early connection to their role as it pertains to the fulfillment of the mission of the business, they are set up for success because they are taught from the get go that it is about much more than the task at hand.


Rein in negativity

Every business deals with setbacks, challenges, breakdowns and disappointments, the real difference between leaders who carry their people through those tough times and leaders who have carnage to clean up along the way, is the leader who takes the time to check in with how people are feeling and the leader who intervenes in the negativity and works to reverse it.

When it comes right down to it, all negativity or upsets step from one of three incidents, an unfulfilled expectation, a thwarted intention or an undelivered communication. When managers are present and aware of their employees’ feelings and work-style it is very apparent when someone is off kilter or upset. The astute leader is right on top of those upsets and provides support for their people to overcome and get through these motivational killers.

Inspiring people is a core competency of great leaders; great leaders who foster alignment and engagement in employees do this by inspiring people to bring their best self to work.

Therefore, leading others for the long term requires that you are able to recognize and bring this energy. People become inspired when they start believing they have more ability than they thought they did. If you’d like additional tips on how to build a winning workplace culture, check out this video and share your success stories in the comments below.

Employee Engagement

There is tremendous chatter in the media about the lack of employee engagement in the workplace and a large emphasis in leadership circles on raising workforce productivity—both of which can be solved through a conscious hiring mindset. When the majority of people on a project team are high quality engaged workers; it raises the energy and output of the group, and when the opposite occurs, it lowers the energy and output of the work.

Most people are like sponges and those around them affect their work attitudes. Positivity breeds positivity, and so forth. Work production improves under the guidance of engaged, inspired and competent people; as opposed to when you unknowingly hire someone who is not competent, not engaged and their attention is bifurcated, you get a subpar work product. It’s the law of physics.

Hiring is a tricky game. Most people know they must put their best foot forward in an interview; however, they don’t know the impact they cause by being ill-equipped for actually doing the work. It is the business manager’s job to know and be aware of the impact and to head off these problems before they arise.


Employee Retention

A conscious hiring program helps business owners streamline their hiring efforts and maximize hiring effectiveness because it begins with the end in mind. Before any advertising is done, or any recruitment begins the role is assessed and analyzed for a solid understanding of purpose and linkage to strategic outcomes. Often, too much time is spent with candidates who have spot on resumes yet lack the fundamental traits to effectively execute the role; and in the end, neither the person nor the role deliver.

Organizations want to keep the right people—those people who contribute and move the business forward. When management focuses on developing their best people, evoking the best in them and shepherding them to the next level, they improve the retention of their high-potentials.  Likewise, when management focuses on fixing and preventing errors, they create a culture of risk adversity and stagnation. Consciously hiring affords managers the time to focus on elevating the work challenges and opportunities for the right people, which leads to stronger employee retention.


Customer Service

The customer experience improves when the person in the customer-facing role authentically cares about service delivery, is a proactive problem solver and has a natural talent at follow up and detail orientation. The experience one has when they walk into an establishment and the staff are standing around talking, while customers stand and wait is the same experience your customers have to endure when they call don’t feel served.

In sharp contrast, the organizations that match their hiring brand with their customer brand attract and onboard the type of people who deliver results for the customers that are consistent with what was promised when they signed up. When you match your company values to the values you look for in your service people, they naturally deliver in a manner that honors those values and your message and inn turn your service brand is strengthened.

When your company breaks free from the fetters of archaic hiring methods, turns on its brainpower and begins to recruit and hire in a conscious manner, it has an organization-wide benefit. Turnover drops, employee engagement improves, workforce productivity increases, and your customers and clients are more apt to return and increase their business. If you’d like to get some more tips on how Conscious Hiring® can help you maximize your effectiveness and optimize your workforce you can view our Webinar replay here or take a look at our video below:

Would you like to transform the way you hire and manage your people, and optimize the human potential in your workforce?

You can maximize your HR effectiveness and make a positive impact on your work community through Conscious Hiring® and Development.

In this webinar, you’ll learn how to impact your company’s organizational effectiveness by ensuring the people you bring on board are ideal for the job and for your company. New hires will be philosophically aligned with your company’s culture. They’ll possess the right attitudes and beliefs about themselves and the position for which they are applying. You’ll ensure they are highly-qualified, dedicated to their role, and that they get results.

Conscious Hiring® and Development leverages your ability to act as consultant inside your organization while fostering systemic corporate growth and transformation.  You’ll learn and champion a lean recruiting model to increase your company’s efficiency in the hiring process.

Click here to watch this Webinar now!


THINKHR Stats & Feedback: 

* 701 attendees

* 93% gave the webinar a 4 or 5 for effectiveness (on a scale of 1-5)

* 94% rated Margaret’s effectiveness as a speaker a 4-5 (on a scale of 1-5)

* Those are great survey results and definitely in line with what we would expect of our THR webinars!


Attendee Comments:

* Really enjoyed this presentation!

* Great presentation!! Very helpful!

* Love the presenter’s passion for the topic. Engaging.

* We could have spent a lot more time and gone more in-depth on this topic. Very good info!

* This was a very good webinar. Margaret brought a personal touch to it.

* It flowed so well I was surprised when it was over that I had been listening for an hour already.

* One of the best webinars I have ever attended. THANK YOU!


About the speaker: Magi Graziano, CEO of KeenAlignment, is a leading talent management expert, keynote speaker, and author of The Wealth of Talent with over 20 year of real-world, hands-on experience in hiring strategy and talent

development. She brings neuroscience to hiring, learning and development, and employee engagement. A pioneer in her field, she has developed a talent strategy system that gives business leaders the actionable steps they need to align their corporate strategy with their people strategy and thereby maximize employee effectiveness and engagement and develop high-performing teams who consistently elevate the customer experience.

A Certified Co-Active Executive Coach, Certified Employee Retention Specialist and Trainer, and an Organizational Development and Talent Architect, Magi has been a guest speaker at conferences and seminars where she’s captivated audiences with her presentations on Conscious Hiring, Leadership Effectiveness, and Workforce Optimization.

Many companies—from multinational mega-corporations to neighborhood markets—are still using outdated hiring techniques. Clinging to the ways of the past when constructing a workforce leads to high turnover, stagnant engagement from staff and quarterly reports in the red.

In some cases, it is as if they are staffed by a host of HR drones, these businesses are going about the practice of hiring in a completely automatic, unconscious manner. Solving the hiring problems of the 21st Century requires a spirited, connected system that makes selecting the right candidates for the job easy.

It requires a conscious hiring process.

The promise is that conscious hiring is the lynch pin to workforce optimization and engagement and employee retention, as well as an overall boost to your customer service efforts. Hiring consciously means awareness around the role, the purpose and outcomes required to successfully validate the roles existence and cost in the organization; as well as mindfulness about who the right type of person is for the role. With a conscious hiring mindset, all of these parameters are defined at the beginning of the search. It means making keen hiring decisions that are geared towards the organizations’ strategic needs over and above the key words listed on the resume and the frenzy to fill the job fast.

When people are hired and on boarded into an organization that they are philosophically aligned with and they are hired into roles that are a natural self-expression of their strengths and talents, simply said, they perform—and they perform well. When you open your hiring minds and take a conscious approach in your “people on boarding” methods, you ultimately streamline your operation: you optimize your workforce, maximize employee retention and engagement and begin to provide stout customer service.

When you look at hiring like you look at improving your running, tennis or golf game, it only makes sense to hire people who raise the bar and make everyone better in the process. High performers focus on doing the right things, achieving outcomes and depending on their role and interests, they focus on making improvements to products and the business. An optimized workforce means that the right people are focused on the right things. The right things might look like increased sales, operational efficiency, innovation, customer experience and sustainability, as these are the pillars of any long-term successful organization.

If you are looking to maximize the potential in your workforce, download our 7 steps to Improve Your Hiring Checklist to help you get started in attracting, recruiting, and selecting the “ideal match” candidates for the roles you need to fill.

You can also watch this video below to start implementing 5 easy steps in your hiring strategy today:

Have you ever thought you hired the workplace version of John Wayne, only to find out youʼve been duped and ended up with a Woody Allen? Poor hiring decisions are costly mistakes that can range from 150% to 300% of an employeeʼs base salary. Financial losses include expenses associated with hiring and training, low employee morale and decreased productivity. Plus, poor hiring choices frequently lead to damaged client relationships, loss of new business and business in general, unemployment and more. The bottom line is that bad hiring decisions can make or break a business.



The two most common hiring traps are hiring in a hurry and hiring the résumé rather than the person. Companies that donʼt have succession plans or fail to practice cross-training often rush to relieve the pain of the empty chair.

Businesses that ignore the hiring process in the interest of expediting it are far more susceptible to missing important clues that could prevent a poor hiring decision. For example, studies on the behaviors of job applicants report that more than 65% of all candidates do not prepare their own résumés. Even more unsettling for prospective employers is that more than 45% misrepresent their credentials with one or more “tall tales.” From reporting academic degrees never achieved and embellishing roles to listing completely fictitious positions, many of todayʼs job seekers will do whatever they can to appear qualified.

A third and very common trap is to hire on the basis of job descriptions. These typically list a subjective interpretation of required skills and experience. By highlighting only hard skills, they leave out the most critical elements such as key performance objectives, behaviors, values, character traits and soft competencies — the defining criteria that lead to effective performance.

With the war on talent in full force, there is tremendous pressure on hiring managers to keep their organizations fully staffed and productive. But how does one meet these demands without falling into hiring traps? After more than two decades as a recruiter, staffing agency owner, and leader of the KeenAlignment strategic hiring and retention initiative, Iʼve developed an arsenal of practical tips and “insider” tools that empower business owners and HR executives alike with the ability to make informed decisions about their most important resource — their people. Today, I share these with you in a simple step-by-step format.


If you hire someone you donʼt really know, for a position you have not thoroughly defined, chances are that neither the person nor the position will deliver. Hiring the right people requires implementation of a comprehensive internal hiring process that selects the best and eliminates the rest. And it all starts with benchmarking. Whether you are benchmarking the role, the top performers in that role, or key traits of the best performers in the company as a whole, the first step is creating the model of what right looks like. Companies that take the time to do so fully understand not only who they need, but also why they need them. These are the companies that excel in the employee-selection process and the capacity to build a “dream team.”


Before you evaluate your immediate needs, evaluate the company and team. This is called the Internal Human Capital Inventory and Assessment, and it involves:

1. Evaluating your core culture:

· Acknowledge and prorate your core values.

· Assess the character quotient of your company.

· Identify the non-negotiable character traits or core values for your company.

2. Evaluating your current team:

· Identify your key players and what innate abilities and traits make them successful.

· Identify whatʼs working on the team and what isnʼt.

· Identify what elements are missing on the team that would make a positive difference.

3. Implementing a system for evaluating and selecting new hires and internal promotions:

· Establish and cross-train to hiring protocol.

· Create companywide candidate-screening ground rules.

· Create a Comprehensive Position Requirement (CPR) for every role.

· Validate, select and utilize the right assessment tools.

· Create behavioral-based interview models for each role in the company.

· Establish a decision-making matrix.


With a treetop look at your company and a foundation in place to grow from, itʼs time to look at each role on a tree-trunk level. Focus on the needs of the business and how each role is attached to the key performance indicators of the company as a whole. When you are clear on the performance objectives for each role in the company and how those affect the big picture of service, sales, retention and profitability, it is much easier to determine who the best person is for each role. Here are some specific holistic hiring techniques:

1. Hire right the first time:

· Thoroughly define each role in your company.

· Define specific success outcomes that are expected in the role.

· Isolate the CAN DO (Intellectual Quotient).

· Isolate the WILL DO (Emotional Quotient).

· Isolate the FIT IN (Character Quotient).

2. Follow the hiring protocol:

· Train each hiring manager on the CPR for his/her positions.

· Conduct a preplanned behavioral-based telephone screening.

· Employ a cursory pre-interview assessment.

· Formulate a position-specific interviewing guide for managers to follow.

· Make hiring decisions according to the predetermined hiring matrix.

3. Set up an effective ramp-up process that validates your hiring choice out of the gate:

· Socialization – on-boarding.

· Manager – new employee meeting.

· Game Plan – expectations, communication, work style.

With established hiring procedures adhered to consistently, your company will jump over and past dangerous hiring traps, turn the tables on the mishaps of poor hiring, and reap the benefits that come with having the right people in the right roles.

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